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State v. Derby

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL RYAN DERBY, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Plymouth County, Jeffrey A. Neary, Judge.

         Michael Derby challenges the weight of the evidence to support his convictions of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and eluding. AFFIRMED.

          Michael K. Williams of Williams Law Office, Hinton, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         Following a trial to the bench, the district court found Michael Derby guilty of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI), third offense, and eluding or attempting to elude a pursuing law enforcement vehicle while intoxicated. Derby appeals, arguing the weight of the evidence does not support the court's guilty verdicts. Upon our review, we conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding its guilty verdicts were supported by the greater weight of the evidence. We therefore affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In the early hours of July 18, 2015, Sioux City police officers in an unmarked drug unit observed a truck with dark tinted windows-owned and driven by Derby-stop for a few minutes in a high drug traffic area and then leave. Officer Josh Tyler, on duty that morning, was informed of the tinted-window violation and the truck's location, and he followed the truck in his marked squad car. Officer Tyler observed Derby commit several moving violations. Officer Tyler activated his lights to stop Derby's truck, and Derby fled. A thirty-minute chase ensued, and at times Derby drove at speeds up to ninety miles per hour. Derby ran through red lights and drove through barricades on the wrong side of a construction zone. He drove through an accident scene. He drove the wrong way onto a highway bypass and proceeded driving the wrong way on the divided highway. While driving, Derby threw items out the truck's window. For safety reasons, Officer Tyler discontinued his pursuit at that time.

         Plymouth County Deputy Sheriffs Matt Struve and Paul Betsworth picked up the chase in their separate marked squad cars after Derby crossed into Plymouth County, and the squad cars' cameras recorded their pursuit. Also involved in the chase was Iowa State Patrol Trooper David Dreasen. With Deputy Betsworth following behind him, Deputy Struve activated his lights in an attempt to stop Derby, but Derby continued on, again driving at speeds up to ninety miles per hour. Because Derby and the officers were approaching Le Mars on Highway 75, the trooper contacted a Le Mars officer to attempt to intercept Derby with stop sticks. Stop sticks were placed, and Derby ran over them, deflating three of his truck's tires. But Derby continued driving, even after his tires started shredding and he was running on the rims. Then the rims started disintegrating, but Derby kept going for approximately ten more miles. He continued to throw items out the window and to swerve. At one point, Derby stuck his leg out the car window and made profane gestures at the officers.

         Derby's truck began smoking and decelerating. When the truck slowed to a speed of a few miles per hour, Derby jumped out of it-while the truck was still moving-and continued on foot. Derby was apprehended about fifty yards away. Thereafter, he apologized to the officers and told them "he just wanted to get away." Derby said he "didn't do anything wrong." An officer told Derby he had driven the wrong way on the highway, and Derby responded, "No I wasn't. I didn't think so." Derby said he had had a few hard lemonades. When asked if he put people's lives in danger to avoid a drunk-driving charge, Derby told the officers, "I didn't know if I was above the limit or not, man. . . . I already have three OWIs. . . . I thought I would've got away. I'm not that smart."

         Derby was arrested and placed in Deputy Betsworth's squad car, and the audio was recorded. In the car, Derby chastised himself, stating, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever done, " and "[I made a] stupid choice." On the way to the Plymouth County Jail, Derby said he had been drinking at a friend's house and he was trying to get away. At the jail, Trooper Dreason invoked implied consent "[b]ased on . . . the driving and everything that [he] had observed, [he] believed [he] had reasonable grounds to believe that [Derby] was operating a vehicle and was under the influence, " but Derby refused to submit to chemical testing.

         Derby was ultimately charged with OWI, third or subsequent offense, and eluding or attempting to elude a pursuing law enforcement vehicle while intoxicated. Derby waived a jury trial, and the matter was tried to the district court. All four of the officers testified as to their observations of Derby's driving that morning and his interactions with them thereafter, and all four opined Derby had been under the influence of drugs-presumably methamphetamine-and did not appear to have had a seizure. Also admitted into evidence was the two deputies' squad car videos and the video from Plymouth County Jail's OWI and booking area after Derby arrived.

         After the State rested and Derby's motion for acquittal was submitted, he called his mother as a witness to explain his history of having seizures, including one she witnessed on July 1, 2015. She also testified Derby had a history of having anxiety or panic attacks. Derby's mother testified that Derby became disoriented after having a seizure and shook "with his hands and feet, constantly moving." After his July 1 seizure, ...


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